Friday, August 01, 2008

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Steam from magmaI really wanted my first picture of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to be a giant plume of burning hot magma, but we didn't get to see any. The most active lava flows were blocked off by the National Park Service. You can get close, but you have to drive out of the park and around the island to get there. There just wasn't enough time in our little day trip.

Still, we managed to spend about four hours in the park. If I go back, I want to spend at least four days.

Before we got there, our guide kept saying, "Bro, you could die today."

do not enter signI thought it was just a part of "the show." Now that I've been there, I can see that he wasn't kidding...ok, maybe he was being a little exaggerative.

According to Summit Post:
Your chances of getting caught in a lava flow on Kilauea is almost nil. However, deaths occur in HVNP each year. It can be a very dangerous place.

The most common cause of death is collapsing lava which can trap you. Ensure that you stay on established trails and out of closed areas. Park Rangers constantly change trails to avoid walking on unstable earth.

Explosive steam vents can also injure or kill hikers. It's not uncommon for these explosions to spew a horrible combination of Hydrochloric acid and Sulfuric acid, as well as minute particles of glass.

Sulfur Dioxide is all over the park. Do any hiking and you will surely encounter these noxious fumes. People with heart and lung conditions, pregnant women, infants, young children, and those with general poor health should avoid hiking.

Finally, some inactive vents can be deceptively deep. Similar to crevasses on glaciers, unwary hikers looking to explore these cracks have fallen in, sometimes hundreds of feet.
Even with the threat of death, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the most popular tourist attraction on the big island of Hawaii. I called up the visitor information line (808 985-6000) and asked the operator just how many visitors, and she told me just over a million and a half per year.

There is a lot to do inside the park. There are hiking and mountain biking trails, roads, camping sites, two active volcanoes, a number of craters, active and inactive lava flows, a hotel and restaurant, a museum, a visitor's center, and a number of look outs, and picnicking areas.

It is one of the best, if not the best, and most accessible parks I have ever visited. I'd put it in my top three along with Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica and the ACEER lodge in Peru.

It is hard to say what was the main attraction at the park.

Was it the Kilauea Volcano and the Halema Ľuma Ľu Crater? Maybe? How cool is it that you can hike down into a volcanic crater, by the way?

hawaiian lava flowOr was it the lava flows along Chain of Craters Road, heading from the Kilauea summit down to the ocean?

Or perhaps it is at the end of that road, where the lava flow covers the road and where you are allowed to hike along the ocean atop the newest land in the world?

So what does this have to do with the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument? Can you say visitor's center?

As I mentioned above, this National Park has both a visitor's center and museum.

hvnp visitors centerThe visitor's center is near the entrance to the park. There is information on what there is to see inside the park, a theater, a gift shop, and some displays on the biology and some of the management issues, such as dealing with invasive species.

The museum, which doubled as an outlook and observatory, had information on the geology of the area.

Something really started to become apparent to us as we traversed through the park. Our proposed monument is like a giant underwater Volcanoes National Park (because of the underwater volcanoes), Grand Canyon National Park (because of the Mariana Trench), and Yellowstone National Park (because of the biodiversity) all combined in one place.

How cool is that?

1 comment:

Saipan Writer said...

Not to mention that we have above-ground volcanos in our northern islands-and the possibility of seeing them smoke and fume on any tour to the national marine monument.